What is sustainable fishing?

Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

What is meant by sustainable fishing?

Fish swim around and need time to grow and re-produce. Sustainable fishing allows this to happen. The MSC Fisheries Standard is a voluntary global standard that fisheries use to independently verify the sustainability of their fishery.

How can a fishery be sustainable?

The sustainability of a fishery can be assessed regardless of its size, geography or the fishing method used. The MSC Fisheries Standard is a science-based way to measure that sustainability.

The sustainability of a fishery is an ongoing process. After they are MSC certified, fisheries are regularly reassessed and many are required to make further improvements. Scientific knowledge also improves all the time and fisheries are encouraged to develop new ways of conserving marine resources for future generations.

When fisheries are independently assessed to the standard, three main principles are considered:

  1. Sustainable fish stocks

    Are enough fish left in the ocean? Fishing must be at a level that ensures it can continue indefinitely and the fish population can remain productive and healthy.

  2. Minimising environmental impact

    What are the impacts? Fishing activity must be managed carefully so that other species and habitats within the ecosystem remain healthy.

  3. Effective fisheries management

    Are operations well managed? MSC certified fisheries must comply with relevant laws and be able to adapt to changing environmental circumstances.

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The three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard


Why is sustainable fishing important?

According to the United Nations, a third of fish populations are overfished and 60% are fished to their biological limit. Our ocean is under enormous pressure from climate change, pollution and overfishing. Sustainable fishing is one way to solve the problem of overfishing to ensure we have oceans teeming with life.

Which fish are most sustainable?

There is no such thing as a sustainable species of fish, only sustainable populations of fish. What is sustainably fished in one part of the ocean, could be overfished in another.

When you see the MSC blue fish tick label on seafood, you can be sure it can be traced back to a certified sustainable fishery.

Choose sustainable seafood

Find out more in our sustainable seafood guide.

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Close-up of frozen prawn, pollock and lobster products with the blue MSC label

What does the blue MSC label mean?

The blue fish label is only applied to wild fish or seafood from fisheries certified to the MSC standard, a scientific measure of sustainable fishing.

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Full shot of fishermen repairing hanging nets with their backs to the camera

Our approach

Our approach means everyone can play a part in that future while enjoying seafood, not avoiding it.

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Low-angle shot of three men (left, right and centre) bent forwards fixing a net

Fisheries improving

As well as fishing healthy populations, fisheries must show they are managing their impacts on habitats and other marine species.

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